Help for writers

I started out like every other writer who grew up reading James Michener. I was going to write this great saga that would sell books by the tens of thousands.

And I wrote it. A great saga.

And I got 125 rejections letters from agents and editors.

I decided, well, I’ve got to get some help, so I went to several writers conferences. And the sessions were good, but these literary writers wouldn’t talk shop in the hallways or over lunch with those of us struggling to master the craft. And they sure never offered to critique a couple pages of our stuff.

I eventually gave up on writing the great American novel and turned instead to the mystery field. Got an agent who liked my first manuscript, but she couldn’t sell it. So back to the writers conferences I went, again looking for help in learning a different craft.

Went to Dark & Stormy Nights in Chicago, sponsored by the Midwest chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. And to Love Is Murder, another conference for mystery writers held in Chicago. The old hands and not-so-old hands who sold books by the basketful were everywhere talking with every new writer willing to ask a question. “Got a couple pages? Sure, let’s go over here and I’ll read them and give you a thought.”

Writers helping other writers.

Romance writers may do the same at their conferences. I hope so. But that kind of help from our colleagues wasn’t there at the conferences for mainstream writers that I have attended.

So if you’re a writer looking for help, spend a few coins to come to a mystery writers conference. And come – even if you aren’t writing a mystery.

Tomorrow: A lesson from Jeffery Deaver

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